UPDATE 1-Italy approves sale plans for post office, air traffic control

Fri May 16, 2014 10:07am EDT

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ROME May 16 (Reuters) - The Italian government approved plans on Friday to sell stakes of up to 40 percent in Poste Italiane, the national post office, and of 49 percent in state-owned air traffic control operator Enav SpA.

The sales, announced last year, are part of a broad privatisation drive aimed at raising 8-10 billion euros over the next two years to cut Italy's 2 trillion euro public debt. They are expected to be wrapped up by the end of this year.

The sale of the stake in Poste Italiane may take place in several phases, said a statement issued after a cabinet meeting, with part of the shares aimed at small shareholders, including post office employees, and another part targeting Italian and foreign institutional investors.

Post office employees may be offered incentives to encourage take-up of the shares, including special reserved blocs, bonus shares or price and financing conditions.

The stake in Enav will also be targeted at private and institutional shareholders but could also be sold directly to a buyer through competitive tender, provided there were no conflicts of interest.

As well as Poste Italiane and ENAV, the government also intends to sell stakes in energy group ENI, shipbuilder Fincantieri and microchip maker STMicroelectronics.

Italy has promised for years to divest some of its extensive corporate holdings but has so far had little to show for it. However, growing pressure from the European Commission to begin reducing a debt pile that shot up in the 2011-13 recession has added urgency to the plans.

Earlier this year, Fabrizio Saccomanni, finance minister in the last government, said the sale of a 40 percent stake in the post office could raise 4.0-4.8 billion euros, a price analysts said would value the group at around 10-12 billion euros.

Poste Italiane, one of Italy's biggest employers with 146,000 employees, provides a range of services as well as traditional mail delivery with its financial arm BancaPosta counting as Italy's sixth biggest bank. (Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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